With just 3 minutes left in the game down 6-3 against 7A Hillgrove, River Ridge was looking for a big play. No team had scored a touchdown all night, and once again Hillgrove was punting.
Back to returns was senior Andrew Hand. The ball bounced, Hand jaunted back towards the right sideline picking up the football, and just like that, there were already a handful of Hillgrove defenders bearing down. Hand faked left, and then hit the accelerator splitting the Hillgrove return team and was off to the races down the right sideline. He made a smart cutback at midfield and all that was left was the Hillgrove punter. The speedy senior easily accelerated by the specialist for the go-ahead score.
River Ridge won the game 9-6 and Hand’s punt return made all the difference. A few nights later Hand earned a spot on the top 10 plays of Week 1 where he eventually was voted the #1 play in the state.
Going into his senior year, Hand feels like he has made a lot of strides in becoming more physical football player.
“My biggest improvement from last year to this year is my physicality. I have been working hard trying to get bigger and stronger over the offseason. As well as getting involved in the run game as much as possible,” Hand said.
Hand plays in all three facets of the game at wide receiver, several defensive back positions, and of course special teams. His tremendous speed not only helped on the game-winning punt return, but also the several chase-down tackles that saved the Knights from giving up a score.
No doubt about it, Hand is off to a great senior season, and he has some goals he would like to attain by the end of it.
“My goals for my senior season are to have my best statistical season so far and help my team win a region championship as well as make a run in the playoffs. Also, to make All-Region 1st team as a defensive back,” he said.
On the college recruiting front, Hand went to a lot of camps over the last few months and was able to network.
“Summer camp season was great. I feel like I maximized my time and got my name out there. I felt I performed well at every camp I went to.”
As of now though, the senior has not seen a lot of college interest, which at 6’2″, a 3.7 GPA, and outstanding open-field speed, that is hard to believe.
“I know that it will pick up during the season when I continue to make game-changing plays,” he said.
We agree with Hand’s assessment and believe it’s just a matter of time before colleges recognize his upside as a student-athlete. Right now though, Hand doesn’t have any college visits planned but hopes to attend 3-4 games before the season is over.
With the 2023 season being his final year of high school football, we asked the senior to reflect on what Friday nights here in Georgia mean to him.
“The thing I like the most about playing on Friday nights, especially at River Ridge, is the atmosphere. There isn’t anything like it. The support we all get as players from the people in our community is unreal. I can confidently say that we have some of the best fans in all of high school football.”
Hand will get another opportunity this Friday to play in front of the home crowd when the Knights take on Pope. That should be another great opportunity for the senior to show off his talents, and continue to build his resume for college coaches. We believe this recruitment will certainly gain traction as the season persists, so be sure to follow @RecruitGeorgia to hear the latest recruiting news on Hand and athletes all across the state of Georgia.